Scientific reports

Transcription Factor Forkhead Regulates Expression of Antimicrobial Peptides in the Tobacco Hornworm, Manduca sexta.

PMID 28578399


Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) play an important role in defense against microbial infections in insects. Expression of AMPs is regulated mainly by NF-κB factors Dorsal, Dif and Relish. Our previous study showed that both NF-κB and GATA-1 factors are required for activation of moricin promoter in the tobacco hornworm, Manduca sexta, and a 140-bp region in the moricin promoter contains binding sites for additional transcription factors. In this study, we identified three forkhead (Fkh)-binding sites in the 140-bp region of the moricin promoter and several Fkh-binding sites in the lysozyme promoter, and demonstrated that Fkh-binding sites are required for activation of both moricin and lysozyme promoters by Fkh factors. In addition, we found that Fkh mRNA was undetectable in Drosophila S2 cells, and M. sexta Fkh (MsFkh) interacted with Relish-Rel-homology domain (RHD) but not with Dorsal-RHD. Dual luciferase assays with moricin mutant promoters showed that co-expression of MsFkh with Relish-RHD did not have an additive effect on the activity of moricin promoter, suggesting that MsFkh and Relish regulate moricin activation independently. Our results suggest that insect AMPs can be activated by Fkh factors under non-infectious conditions, which may be important for protection of insects from microbial infection during molting and metamorphosis.